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Jury convicts in Lauderdale drug ring

By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
June 24, 2003
A jury returned a conviction Monday in the case of a man accused of transporting large amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine from California and selling them in Lauderdale County.
The week-long trial of Michael Lee Hodges began June 16 in U.S. District Court in Jackson.
Hodges was convicted of all 10 counts in the federal indictment against him. Five involved transport and sale of illegal drugs; five involved money-laundering.
Agents from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics' Meridian District began looking into Hodges' activities in March 2002. The investigation eventually involved narcotics agents from Jackson and San Diego, the U.S. Customs Office and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Hodges was indicted in September 2002.
Prosecutors alleged that Hodges chose Lauderdale County because he has family connections in the area.
In the indictment against Hodges, the U.S. Attorney's office announced that it would seek: 1) jail time; 2) a judgment of $700,000, the amount Hodges allegedly made from drug-trafficking; 3) property used to "facilitate" the illegal enterprise at 5706 Topton Road in Toomsuba; 4) property in San Diego; 5) 19 cars, trucks and other vehicles; 5) about $21,000 seized from the Toomsuba property and accounts at Trustmark National Bank and Citizens National Bank.
Jimmie Hodges, group supervisor for the MDN's Meridian District, said prosecutors had enlarged their case against Hodges by the time he went to trial tying him to more than $1.6 million in illegal profits and 11 properties.
One of those properties was Hodges Auto Sales on Highway 39 in Meridian.
Five other people were also indicted in connection with the drug-trafficking ring: James Floyd Thompson, Kimberly R. Hancock, Angela Michelle Route, Johnny D. Brewster and Vivian C. Tingle.
All but Tingle have since pleaded guilty and been sentenced to jail time. The indictment against Tingle was dismissed, although Nichols said she could face new charges in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
A sentencing hearing for Hodges has been scheduled for Sept. 4 before U.S. District Judge Tom Lee. That sentence, to be served in a federal penitentiary, could range from 30 years to life.
The case agent in charge of the Michael Lee Hodges investigation, Allen Ward, received the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics' "Agent of the Year" award on Friday. During the same ceremony, the Meridian District office received the MBN's "Regional Case of the Year" and "District of the Year" awards.